Sunday, September 2, 2012

Peace is a long term work effort

Working to bring peace to society is oddly met with a great deal of struggle. Basically we all have our own plan to achieve the goal of peace and that in its self creates friction. Even within societies that are deemed peaceful there is usually a built in political mechanism to cause fractionalization or opposition. In Canada there exists the Clarity Act which outlines the process for the breakup of the country/ a province to separate. As we search for the desired goal of a peaceful society, what we really are building is a trusting, predictable process/order to resolve questions and issues.
Working in conflict areas, violence is the main method used to resolve most issues. This culture of violence builds a dangerous pattern within society as it filters into the minds of the youth. After years of violent chaos the youth learn that this is the normal way to live. It builds distrust within their minds towards every new person they meet because at some point there will be a violent battle which often ends in death. Now as years pass and education about the reality of their culture is taught small victories are made.
These small victories are paramount to building a peaceful society. These small victories often go unnoticed and are lost due to the short sightedness of many world leaders. We see this short sightedness in every peace mission undertaken by the United Nations Security Council.  Missions are given six month rotation periods. Success is measured in how fast a war can end. What is not realized is that peace takes moments to destroy and centuries to rebuild. For example, World War II is said to have last from 1939- 1945, yet Canada had a military presence in Germany up to 1992. If Canada took that long term vision and applied it to Afghanistan we would be looking at an end date of about 2055. Libya would be 2063. These dates seem more realistic to me than the ten years plans in place today.
If such a concept was ever discussed with a politician (as I have done) it is met with laughter and complete refusal that such a time frame is needed. However, the reality proves that such a long term time frame is in fact the case. Serra Leone and Liberia for example are only now making larger steps towards peace after twenty years of civil war and still these countries are in deep need of peace assistance.
As societies come out of violent conflicts we must nurture the path so that systems can be taught, trusted, entrenched in culture. The larger society must have a belief that issues will be dealt with in a predictable manner other than violence. Opposition is part of life and we must build methods to release the pressure when the conflict escalates. Building peaceful societies does not mean we no longer have conflict, it means that we no longer have a need for violent reactions. Also we must understand that the desire for violence will always be with us, just watch a hockey game and that reality will be evident within seconds. The difference is how we manage ourselves to contain and find order so that the violence does not over take the larger realm of society/game. The same goes for politics in every society around the world.

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